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Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems, Water & Energy Cycles

The northern sub-Saharan African (NSSA) region, extending from the southern fringes of the Sahara to the Equator, and stretching west to east from the Atlantic to the Indian ocean coasts, plays a prominent role in the genesis of global atmospheric circulation and the birth of such major (and often catastrophic) events as hurricanes and the distribution of the Saharan dust to other parts of the world. Therefore, this NSSA region represents a critical variable in the global climate change equation. Recent satellite-based studies have revealed that the NSSA region has one of the highest biomass-burning rates per unit land area among all regions of the world. Because of the high concentration and frequency of fires in this region, with the associated abundance of heat release and gaseous and particulate smoke emissions, biomass-burning activity is believed to be a major driver of the regional carbon, energy, and water cycles. We acknowledge that the rainy season in the NSSA region is from April to September while biomass burning occurs mainly during the dry season (October to March). Nevertheless, these two phenomena are indirectly coupled to each other through a chain of complex processes and conditions, including land-cover and surface-albedo changes, the carbon cycle, evapotranspiration, drought, desertification, surface water runoff, ground water recharge, and variability in atmospheric composition, heating rates, and circulation. We propose an interdisciplinary research effort, which seeks to address the effects of the intense biomass burning observed from satellite year after year across the NSSA region on the rapid depletion of the regional water resources, as exemplified by the dramatic drying of Lake Chad. This proposal brings together a multi-disciplinary team of scientists from different but complimentary fields of expertise to embark on an integrated study that will unravel the coupling of these phenomena and associated processes and outcomes. Through this effort we aim to provide a robust analysis of the impacts of recent (2000 to the present) biomass-burning by monitoring and assessing multiple regional surface, atmospheric, and water cycle processes through remote sensing and modeling approaches that integrate research, systems engineering, and applications expertise to best make the connections between the various identified processes and phenomena, in order to achieve concrete results for societal benefits and climate assessments. This proposal responds to two main subelements of this ROSES-2009 Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science (IDS) program solicitation, namely, (i) Subelement 5: Water and Energy Cycle Impacts of Biomass Burning, and (ii) Subelement 1: Integrated Earth System Responses to Extreme Disturbances.

Project PI: Charles Ichoku/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Phone: (301) 614-6212

Email: Charles.Ichoku@nasa.gov

http://climate.gsfc.nasa.gov/userpage/ichoku

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Started: Sep 29, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 04, 2011

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